Michelle Branch: Matthew Welch

Hotel Paper

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Music
Performer
Michelle Branch
June 27, 2003 at 04:00 AM EDT

For Michelle Branch, whose 2001 debut established her as the most sedate and asexual of the new teen stars, there’ll be no getting her freak on. Her competent, colorless follow-up, Hotel Paper, opens with ”Are You Happy Now?” a surprising fit of power-chord pique that’s unsuccessfully Avril-esque. It’s the last ”rock” song on the CD, as Branch soon reverts to wistful, acoustic-guitar-driven form, aiming to be the next Shawn Colvin (or Buckingham/Nicks, in the Sheryl Crow duet ”Love Me Like That”). There are worse aspirations for a 19-year-old, but the inescapable girlishness in her voice heightens the unlived-in quality of hackneyed, lovelorn ballads like ”Desperately,” the least desperate-sounding song of 2003. In Branch’s attempts at sounding old before her time, every lyric and hook feels shopworn. If only she could find some grown-ups who’d force her to be an adolescent: Where ARE those Svengali-ish song docs in the Matrix when you need ’em?

Hotel Paper

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